124 B- POLEVOI eaten, but I've never operated on a fellow like you." The professor rubbed his hands; they were red and peeling and the finger-nails were corroded. "What are you scowling for? I praise him, but he scowls! I am a lieutenant-general in the Medical Corps. I order you to smile!" Stretching his lips with difficulty into a vacant, rubber smile, Meresyev thought: "If I knew it would end like this, I wouldn't have taken the trouble to crawl. I had three bullets left in my pistol." In one of the newspapers the Commissar read a war correspondent's description of an interesting battle. Six of our fighter planes engaged twenty-two German planes, brought down eight and lost only one. The Commissar read this story with such zest that one would have thought that it was not airmen he did not know, but his own cavalrymen, that had distinguished themselves. Even Kukushkin showed enthusiasm in the argument that ensued, when each tried to picture how it had all hap- pened. But Alexei lay and thought: "Lucky fellows, they are flying and fighting, but I will never go up again." The communiques of the Soviet Information Bureau became more and more laconic. All the signs went to show that somewhere in the rear of the Soviet Army a mighty force was being mustered for another blow. The Commissar and Stepan Ivanovich gravely discussed where that blow would be struck and what effect it would have upon the Germans. Only recently Alexei had led conversations like that; now he tried not to listen to them. He too sensed the approach of big developments of gigantic and, perhaps, decisive battles. But the thought that his comrades, probably even Kukushkin who was rapidly recovering, would take part in those battles, while he was doomed to vegetate in the rear, that nothing could be done about it, was so bitter to him that when the Commissar read the newspaper, or when a conversation about the war commenced, Alexei covered his head with his blanket and rubbed his cheeks on his pillow in order not to see and not to hear. And for some reason the familiar line from Maxim Gorky's Song of the Falcon kept running through fci§ mind; "Those whg ar to wep cawot fly,"